LESSONS LEARNED YET NEED
I have never lost my faith in humanity. Many years ago, when disappointments and sorrows crowded around me, I prayed to God to keep me patient and sweet amid them all. Yes, it was directly from God that I learned to be patient with the sins of mankind. I reasoned thus: God loves this sinful world, ungrateful and unkind as it is. God is kind even to the unthankful. He loves sinners; He loved them enough to give His only-begotten Son to die for them, and Jesus loved them enough to lay down His life for them. Surely then these wicked people must have some intrinsic worth, some value that is not seen on the surface, or God would not care so tenderly for them. God knows, God is wise and good. He sent Jesus all the way from heaven to seek and save them. This meant great things to me and set me to thinking. It gave me an estimate of my own value that I did not have before. Since Christ died for me and is praying for me daily and loving me, notwithstanding my waywardness, I must be of some value to Him in some way. I do not know where or how. This thought was a great inspiration to me and tended to make me more helpful. Yes, this love of God gave me courage for myself and for the rest of mankind, therefore I concluded to invest in human souls. They surely are worth more than anything else in this world. They will last longer and they increase in value after they are saved. Along with this came the thought that God loved them first, then gave; yes, it was His love that made Him give?made Him willing to suffer. I also found that the more time, money, and toil I put into an article the more it is worth to me, and the more I loved it. Whenever I began to feel cross or discouraged with a human soul, I stopped short. The Spirit said to me, "God loves them, God is patient with them." These thoughts have helped to keep my heart fresh and full of love for all races and all conditions of mankind, and yet it has not kept me from telling them their faults. God sent me, also, to reprove and rebuke with all long suffering, as well as to seek and save. When I tell you some little trials I have had in my work you will know that I have entirely forgiven everybody, and I know they have forgiven me. I know I have made mistakes. I have differed with many good people, but because we differ I do not need to give them a thrashing; no, verily, I leave it all for the Master to settle when He comes.
A NIGHT IN A DEPOT AND WHAT CAME OF IT.
May, 1886, I left home to visit a colored association in North Louisiana. To reach there I must travel on a new railroad between Shreveport and Vicksburg. Trains did not always run on time, nor did I know the stations well. By mistake I was carried one station too far, but returned on the next train. This brought me to Dubberly after dark. I intended to get there long before dark. This was the nearest point to the association, five miles in the country. I told the agent I was on the way to an association, and asked where I could get a night's lodging. The people knew who I was because I had visited points near there. This was a small village, no hotels, but some boarding houses. The agent and another young man tried to get me a place to spend the night, but failed. No one would take me in. I said, "Can you not find a private family that will give me a bed?" "There is no use of trying," was their reply.
I then asked the privilege of remaining in the station all night, it was granted, and they gave me the key to the door. There was a little fire, a lamp, and a hard bench for a seat. Cotton seed was stored away in one corner of the room. These young men brought me an old blanket, saying, "If you get very tired, perhaps you can spread it over the cotton seed and rest." They really seemed sorry for me. I knew, and they knew, why I was not taken into any home. I did not use the bed they suggested, but sat up all night. I had my Bible. God was with me. I prayed,
"Calm me, my God, and keep me calm,
Soft resting 'neath thy wing;
Soothe me with holy hymn and psalm,
And bid my spirit rest."
The prayer was answered, and God sang a sweet lullaby to his tired child.
No tears were shed, no unkind thoughts cherished. The great trial came next morning. I tried in vain to get some one to take me to the association. I had money and offered to pay any price, but no one would move an inch in that direction. The post-office was in the depot, therefore many persons came in. In the corner sat a little woman, subject to unkind criticism. I could scarcely get any one to speak to me. I talked with an old gentleman that they said was very rich; he advised me to go home and not meddle with them "niggers," and said some unkind things about them which I will not repeat. The train went by toward my home, but I did not go. I was almost as determined to reach that association as Paul was to go to Rome. I had not eaten anything for twenty-four hours; no one brought me any breakfast. About noon a doctor came in who had a good, kind face. I told him a little of the situation; he asked if I had had breakfast. I said, "No." He next wanted to know if I could ride horse back on a man's saddle. I said, "Yes." He intended to send me to his home which was about a mile distant, but after talking with others he came back, wrote his name on a piece of paper, and gave me directions for reaching his home. Oh, how glad, how thankful I was to get out of that depot. I looked neither to the right hand nor to the left, but walked with all my might till I got outside of the village. I found the way and asked for the wife of my good doctor and handed her the paper with her husband's name written thereon. I cannot tell why, but she kindly invited me in and gave me dinner. After which we went into her room and prayed together. I told her my story, she kissed me in a sisterly way, with tears in her eyes, and said, "God bless you," as tenderly as a mother. I then left to go to the meeting. On my way to the doctor's I had passed a church; it was open. I found some person who said it was a white Baptist church, and at two o'clock the members would assemble for their monthly covenant meeting. While at the depot I had asked to he taken to the home of the white Baptist minister, but was refused. When I found out about this meeting I said, "Praise the Lord! He will open the Red Sea for Sister Moore." Service had begun when I got there; it was very restful for me. The church was in a wood, the quiet country scenery was delightful that spring day. No noise of cars or labor of any kind was heard to disturb the worship. The Bible reading, sermon, and prayer were all about persecution for conscience' sake, and the need of reproving sin and standing for the right, cost what it might. I thought God planned that service for me, and I took the comfort of it to my troubled heart. Afterwards I found that the pastor was a firm advocate for prohibition, and for this he had been persecuted; like me he was misunderstood. After service I introduced myself and told a little of my story; he did not know what to do, but left me and after consulting with some of his members, returned, saying, "I will take you to my home tonight," and he sent his buggy to the depot for my satchel and package of books. The pastor lived in the country. After supper we let the negro question rest, and I got out my books and charts that I always carried with me in those days. One was "A Mute Appeal for Missions," showing the number of different religions in the world. The other was a temperance chart, with columns showing how the nation spent its money. The family and some neighbors gathered around me, and we had a good social time, ending with prayer. The pastor said that he would take me early in the morning to the association, which was three miles distant, and bring me back in the evening. Then I retired, praising God because he had opened the Red Sea, and I had passed over dry shod. Next morning dawned bright and beautiful, and the pastor kept his promise. He said on Sunday he would take me to see a sick friend that he thought I could help, and then leave me with a person near the depot who would see that I reached the train in time.
I wish I had time to tell you more about this consecrated minister and his family, and the woman that took me to the depot. For a lady in her standing to take a woman despised like myself in her buggy to that depot meant more moral courage than most people possess.
This pastor's name was Rev. J. A. Walker. He was a great help to me after this, and suffered for it, too, as did others who came out in the storm to take me by the hand. I could give you several such examples. A lawyer in Simsport showed me a similar favor while I attended an association there. He and Rev. Walker were largely the means in God's hands by which a resolution was passed endorsing my work at the next white Baptist State Convention. I must also make mention of Mr. Leary and family of Mindon, who were extremely kind to me. I have found that there are good and bad among all races and all classes of society. I almost forgot to tell you about the glorious time I had at that association. I was gladly welcomed. I spoke to the whole association and also to the women alone, and had a blessed time with the dear little children. Every one who can usually comes to these associations on the Sabbath. Men often bring their families and come from a great distance. I met one committee and gave away some books and left the others with a friend to sell. God surely did want me to attend this association; Satan tried to hinder, but failed.
I have given my readers this little narrative because I want them to know the good, kind white people who helped me in my work, and also show them my zeal without knowledge, as most folks call it, and give me a chance to explain. I am told that I ought first to have hunted up the white people and, if possible, gotten their help.
In Southern Louisiana I had but little trouble; the white people are mostly Catholics, and the colored people live on large plantations. When I could find the owner of the plantation, I told him I had come to teach his people the Bible and help them to be good, and he said, "Go ahead," probably thinking that my work was similar to that of the Sisters of Mercy. He did not offer to take me to his home, nor did I ask this. I had been doing this country mission work since 1874. The incident just related occurred in 1885. I had not been hindered by the white people except a little during the Kansas exodus, which I will not explain, only to say that some planters thought that missionaries had come to advise the colored people to leave the South. I gradually enlarged my field by going farther North, where I found many Protestants, especially Baptists. I did not know that this would make any difference. Besides this, you must remember that I had my commission from headquarters which said, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." I supposed that the black man's cabin was a part of all the world as well as the white man's mansion. The Spirit had sent me to the colored people. I usually spent only twenty-four hours in a neighborhood and had no time to hunt up the white people. The day was given to visits in homes and meetings with the children and women and old people that were not at work, and the night in meetings with men and women who had been busy all day. White people objected to my spending the night in the black man's home, but, as a general thing, night was the only time in which I could see the adult members of the family. My meetings lasted until late and often some would follow me to my lodgings to learn how to do the work I had left in their hands. I usually organized Sabbath schools and temperance societies. Night was also the time when I could see husband and wife and talk over family affairs. Often before I was out of bed in the morning, and I was an early riser, some one called to see Sister Moore before they went to work. You can easily see that if I had been in a white man's house I would have missed the real object of my visit. But you say I might have stayed longer. What good would that have done as to spending the night? In some places staying in the black man's house made me lose caste with the white family. But to me the fact of being black or being white was of so little importance, that I could not see why people made such a fuss about it, nor can I see any better to-day. Perhaps there is something wrong with my eyes. I did try going to the white man's house after my night meetings in some localities, because it was thought best. I will give you one instance that occurred in North Louisiana.
I made visits during the day and planned a night meeting. Some of the women found a white family who agreed to keep me all night. They left the door unlocked, and the women were to take me there after the meeting, which they did. I did not see the family till morning. We breakfasted together; the wife did not speak to me, but she did say some very trying things about the "niggers" and things that referred to me; her husband was silent. After breakfast I made friends with the children and tried to see the mother, but could not. I took my satchel and started early to visit a school on my way to the meeting. The road led through a quiet wood; my heart was heavy. I pulled my veil over my face and let the tears flow; when near the school I heard a woman calling, "Sister Moore, stop, stop!" I stopped and dried my tears. This woman was black, but her face was shining with joy. I caught a little of her sunshine before she told her story, which, as well as I can remember, was as follows:
"Sister Moore, I have a bad daughter; she has given me much trouble. Last night she was at your meeting, and you told the children how to treat their parents and how wicked it was to disobey and grieve them. She says you told it as nobody else could tell it. 'Now, mother,' she said, 'you must get ready and go and hear that white woman, for she will leave for home after the meeting to-day. I will do all the work myself.' Then she shed tears when she begged my pardon, and I know that she is going to be good. Now, Sister Moore, I want to shake your hand. Oh! sister, I have had so much trouble, but I am a Christian, and I know that you are." I cannot remember all she said, but before she was through, I began scolding myself for being discouraged; since I helped one thoughtless child to love and respect her mother, what need I care for the scorn of another thoughtless mother. The meeting that day was glorious; part of the time was given to "speaking meeting," as we call them, in which other fathers and mothers testified to the good done by my last night's Bible reading. Three mothers accompanied me to the depot. I always avoided walking with the men. It is probably best for all women to have an escort of their own sex, unless it be husband or brother. Of course there may be exceptions to this rule , but I have seen much evil result from the opposite practice.
The white people often referred me to 1 Cor., 10:23: "All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient," to prove that Paul was careful not to upset the customs of the country. I got my guide book and studied the life of Paul. When I came to 2 Cor., 11:23-33 I exclaimed: "Paul, Paul, how did you get into so much trouble and suffering, with all your conservatism?" Really I thought it would hardly be safe for me to follow Paul. Get your Bible and read this chapter, and see if you think Paul catered to public sentiment. After this experience at Dubberly I wrote a letter to the white Baptist state convention, which I think was only read to a committee, but the convention endorsed my work. From this letter I give you
A FEW EXTRACTS.
"To the White Baptist State Convention of Louisiana:
"I am a missionary of the Women's Baptist Home Mission Society, having its headquarters at Chicago. This society is only nine years old (1886). Twenty-three years ago I came to help the colored people of the South. My first work was in Arkansas, teaching. This did not take me much among the people. Thirteen years ago I came to New Orleans and began a new line of work that reaches home, the foundation of society. The home is my center of operations; there I discover the needs of the people. My Fireside sermon reaches all the household. I can do more good spending a night in a home than in ten talks in public. There I can quietly sit down beside the mother and show her what is wrong in her management of her daughter. There I show by a real, living picture how to erect a family altar and how to gather the family around the table. You never know any woman till you visit her in her home?not simply call in her home, but eat a meal with her and spend a night there. The colored people need help in their home life. If we can make all homes right, the nation will be right. All know that in order for me to do this effectually I must go to the home. And here is where I fear you may differ from me. However, I did not come to ask advice on this subject. Long ago, before God, on my knees, with Jesus for my example, I settled on what should be my plan of work. All admit that I am doing a much needed work, but some want me to fight with Saul's armor. They forget that Saul and his armor has not killed the giant of ignorance. Why not let me try my plan, with the hope that it may succeed? The work is not so pleasant in itself, but doing it for Christ's sake makes it a joyful service. There is so much to do I must crowd each hour full of work. I usually only spend one night in a neighborhood, and have not time to hunt up white people and tell them my mission; therefore I have come to this convention that I may be known and my work known. Now my request is, if you believe the work is of the Lord, say so publicly. I am a member of the First White Baptist church of New Orleans and have, I think, the love and sympathy of those who know my work, and they bid me God speed. I want my work investigated. I want some of the white women to help carry on this temperance and mission work in the colored churches. I do not expect them to go into the homes as I do, but you can visit their meetings. God told me to write you this letter, and now I leave all results with Him who can open all hearts and remove all obstacles."
Now you say this letter ought to have been written before I began my work in the country. Granted, but I have explained why I did not know it was necessary. The real opposition, which still exists, was not from the intelligent Christian white people, but it was and is from another class of white people. No one is responsible; that is, we cannot locate the blame on any one class of persons. It began long ago, North as well as South. No doubt the Christian workers, myself included, have made mistakes, and yet we could not have done this work without some suffering, considering the condition of the country. Of one thing I am sure, that God blames the white man more than he does the black man; where much is given, much is required. You may say what you please about Sister Moore, but I do beseech you be kind to my black sister and treat her with the same courtesy and respect that you do other women who come to your church, or whom you meet on the street or in a public conveyance. If she has a basket of clothes or a baby in her arms, help her on and off the cars in a kind, manly way. I do not ask these favors for her because she is a negro. No, no; but because she is a woman, with all the high and holy feelings that live in the hearts of other women. Her purity and good name are dear to her. She is not naturally any better nor any worse than women of other races, except that I think she has a little more motherly, loving kindness. How hard these dear colored women have labored late and early to educate their children and rear them for usefulness! And how kind they are to their neighbors! I know hundreds who are teaching their neighbors how to read the Bible and opening their homes to teach neglected little ones whose mothers are out trying to earn a piece of bread and a garment for their children. They are poor, but they do help each other. I am proud of the colored women. I know them, and I doubt if there is another white woman in the United States that knows as many of them as I do. I also bespeak the same respect for the black man. He is no pauper. There he stands in his noble manhood, ready to do his share of the world's work and thought; he asks no favor because of his race; he only wants an equal chance with the rest of humanity; but remember that he does want an equal chance; he would not be a man if he did not. Stop telling him, "You are only a negro; you were a slave, and you will never be able to do what the white man can do; get out of my way, I have no use for you." No, no, the black man has had enough of that kind of training. Try this plan with your own child, that makes mistakes and has faults, and you will find it will utterly discourage him; or let me try it on yourself. I admit that the negro has faults; yes, he is a bundle of faults, just like you and me. The poet was right when he said:
"Deny the negro's powers in head who will,
Deny his virtues since his wrongs began,
His errors and his faults have stamped him man."
He has needed a little extra help because of his former condition, and this some white people, North and South, have given in a brotherly way with good results.
To our dear black brother we would say, "Get a new supply of love and patience for all humanity; you are in danger of magnifying your troubles and shutting up your sympathies to your own race. That will never do; count your blessings and be thankful. It is better than it was forty years ago. Remember:
"Honor and fame from no condition rise,
Act well your part; there all the honor lies."
For many years you have labored hard to receive the recognition due humanity. Now a large number of your race have concluded to deserve this recognition, which is much wiser. You have seen, as the world goes, that recognition for wisdom, bravery, and virtue is often given to those who do not deserve it. Therefore you would rather deserve praise and not get it than to get it and not deserve it.
What this tired, restless world needs more than anything else is pure love, the love that is only found in heaven, but which God stands ready to pour into all hearts that are ready to receive it.
O let us love each other,
Forget each word unkind,
And all thoughts save gentle ones
Be banished from the mind.
O let us love each other
The little while we stay;
We cannot tell how soon
From earth some may be called away.
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